Thursday, January 19, 2012

Five Guns for the Homestead - Part 1 - Rifles and Shotguns

There are, in my opinion, three kinds of people in the world with regards to guns. There are people that hate guns. They think that guns are inherently evil and that the world would be a better place if there were no guns at all. Then there are people that love guns. They collect guns, they clean guns, they read about guns, they go to gun shows, they just generally enjoy everything about guns. Some of these people, I have noticed, enjoy having guns more than they enjoy shooting guns; but hey, to each his own. The third kind of people are folks that see guns as being tools that are useful to perform specific tasks. These people have a chainsaw to cut firewood, they have garden tools to raise food with, they have hand tools to build things with, and they have guns to hunt with and to protect their families.

If you tend to be a no gun type person you're probably not reading this anyway, and if you are a gun lover you already know more about this stuff than I could every tell you; but if you are a guns-as-tools kind of person then this post is for you.

It is my belief that the average American homestead only needs five guns to handle any possible situation. So I am going to outline what my choices are, why I have selected these particular guns, and the circumstances under which each of these guns would be useful.

First on my list is a good Shotgun. The shotgun is like the multi-tool of the gun world. Depending on the ammo that you use the shotgun can be a small game hunter, a medium size (deer) game hunter, or a home defense weapon. You can use number eight to hunt dove, quail, and squirrels; number sixes for rabbits, coons, and possums; and number fours for turkeys and ducks. If you load up with 00 shot or slugs you can take deer or wild hogs out to about thirty yards or so. A shotgun loaded with 00 is an outstanding home defense weapon. No pinpoint accuracy is required and the knock down power is tremendous.

Shotguns come in 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 28 gauge, 20 gauge, 16 gauge, and .410. The 10 gauge is expensive, ammo is rare, and it has more recoil than the average shooter is comfortable with. Twenty-eight and sixteen gauges are somewhat rare, ammo is not readily available, and their recoil is not much different than the 20 gauge. Because of their relatively light load of shot, .410's require a lot more accuracy; and the ammo is expensive. The 12 gauge and the 20 gauge are the most common and the ammo is widely available and cheap. I personally like a 12 gauge. If you want a little less recoil go with the 20.

Shotguns come in single shot, double barrel, bolt action, pump, and semi-auto. The single shot leaves you with no back-up shot. Doubles are expensive, and you have only two shots. Bolt actions hold several shells, but they are often temperamental loaders. Pumps and semi-autos are the most common. I personally prefer the pump, but that's just me.

My recommendation for the homestead shotgun is the Remington 870 pump. This is a very reliable, moderately priced shotgun that has stood the test of time. Pictured below: Remington 870 12 ga. pump.

The number two gun on my list is a good Small-Bore Rifle. By this I am referring to the .22 caliber rifle. The .22 is the most widely owned gun in America. A good .22 does not break the bank when you buy it, and the ammo is in expensive and very common. The thing I like best about the .22 is its low signature; that is to say, it doesn't make much noise. You can use a .22 to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and other small game without everyone in the county hearing you. Remember, if times go bad, the noise of gunfire can draw attention that you don't want. Twenty-twos come in bolt action, lever action, punp, and semi-auto. Bolt actions and semi-autos are the most common and are comparable in price. When you buy a .22, ditch the cheap scope that comes on it and replace it with a good variable power scope.

My recommendation for the homestead small bore rifle is the Ruger 10-22. This is a very reliable, medium priced, semi-auto. It and the Marlin are probably the most popular semi-auto .22's on the market today. The Ruger costs a little more than the Marlin, but I think it is a better quality gun. Pictured below: top, Marlin Model 60r .22 auto-loader; bottom, Ruger 10-22 .22 auto-loader.

The third gun on my homesteader's list is the Large-Bore Rifle. This is the gun that is commonly referred to as a deer rifle. The large-bore is used to take medium size game that is too far away for the shotgun. If you live in open country you will probably not get close enough to a deer to use a shotgun, but the deer rifle will reach out three-hundred yards to take that venison home. The large-bore can also be used for hogs, antelope, sheep, and other game. A good scope is a must for the large-bore. The most common calibers are .243, .30-30, .308, .270, and .30-06. Military rifles that are chambered for 7.62 x .39 or larger will make a serviceable hunting rifle if they are equipped with a scope. I personally have a WWII vintage .303 Enfield in bolt-action with a good scope that serves my purposes just fine. Pictured below: Sporterized Enfield .303 bolt-action.

Large-bore rifles commonly come in bolt action, lever-action, and semi-auto. The Marlin and Winchester lever-actions in .30-30 are probably two of the most common and most affordable large-bore rifles sold in America today.

My recommendation for the homestead large-bore rifle is the Remington 700 in .270 or .30-06. This is a reliable bolt-action rifle that carries a moderate to expensive price-tag depending on the grade. If price is a big factor you will not go wrong with the Marlin lever-action in .30-30. I prefer the Marlin over the Winchester because the Marlin has a side ejection port which makes it much easier to mount a scope on the Marlin. Pictured below: top, Remington 700 .30-06 bolt-action; bottom, Marlin 336a .30-30 lever-action.

If the world was a friendly place, if crime didn't exist, and if there was never any chance of the social order breaking down; we could stop right here. But, unfortunately, we live in the real world, so I feel compelled to include two defensive guns on my list of five. I will address home defense handguns and military style rifles in my next posts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yucca Root is NOT Edible

I was recently at a local grocery store and I saw that they had a sign saying "yucca root" for sale. Someone had made a mistake and labeled this root as yucca when it was actually yuca with one "c". Yuca is another name for cassava which is a potato-like root that is cultivated in tropical regions throughout the world. Yuca (cassava) and yucca (yucca louisans) are not the same plant. The root of yucca (yucca louisans) contains a high concentration of saponin. Saponin is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, lathering agent. In other words, it is soap. If you eat yucca root you will get sick as a dog.

I can't help but wonder how many people saw that sign in the grocery store and thought, "Hey, I have yucca plants growing around my house. I think I'll dig up a root and try it."

So far as I know the only part of a yucca plant that is edible are the young flowers which I have read can be used in salads. I've never tried this personally so I can't verify that this is true.

The yucca is an incredibly useful plant. You can use it to make fire starting tools, you can use the dried leaves for tinder, you can use the roots and leaves to make soap, you can use the leaves to make cordage, you can make yucca leaf baskets, you can make hats and sandals from yucca leaves, but, you CANNOT eat yucca. So don’t try it; you won’t like it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make a Rawhide Knife Sheath - Part 2

When the sheath has dried, take three or more small nails and tack it down on a board. This will hold the sheath firmly in place while you take a leather awl and poke holes around the outside edge of the sheath. Pictured below: Punching holes in knife sheath that is tacked down on a board to hold it in place.

Next you will need to sew the sheath together using artificial sinew, linen, or some other type of heavy thread. Sew all the way around the sheath in one direction and then sew back in the other direction. This will give you a solid line of stitching. Tie the ends of your thread together with a triple knot and use the point of your awl to shove the knot between the front and back layers of raw hide so that the knot is hidden. Pictured below: Sewing the sheath first in one direction then back in the other.

When the sheath is sewn together you can take a pair of sharp scissors and cut the outside of the welt into fringe. Pictured below: top, Cutting fringe;bottom, fringe completed.

You could call the job done here and put a neck cord on the sheath; but if you want a more fitted look to the sheath you need to put it in some water and let it soak over night and soften back up. Pictured below: Sheath soaking in water.

While the sheath is soaking you can prepare your knife for insertion into the wet sheath.

First take some masking tape and cover the point and cutting edge of the knife.

Next wrap the knife inside of a sealed plastic bag and place some tape around the bag to hold it in place. The tape covering the point and blade will keep the knife from cutting through the bag.

When the sheath is thoroughly soaked and pliable, push the covered knife down into it, then take a couple of nails and tack down the top edge of the sheath so that it doesn’t wrinkle up as it dries. Set the knife and sheath aside to dry for a couple of days.

After the sheath dries you can remove the knife and take the bag and the tape off of it. You will need to trim up the top part of the back and punch a couple of holes in it where you can attach a neck cord. Twisted or braided brain tan leather makes a nice cord. Pictured below: Finished neck knife sheath.

And there’s your finished product, a good looking neck knife sheath that you made yourself. No one would ever guess that it started out life as a dog’s chew toy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Make a Rawhide Knife Sheath - Part 1

I have a nice little handmade knife that I bought at Mansker’s Station a couple of years ago. I bought it for a neck knife, but it came without a sheath, so I decided to use some chew-bone rawhide to make a sheath for it. This is how I made the sheath, and it is the way that you can make one if you ever have the need.

First Take a couple of pieces of wet chew-bone rawhide (see the previous post for more on this) and nail them out on a board to dry. Pictured below: Dried chew-bone rawhide and knife.

When the rawhide is dry, lay your knife down on it and draw a line that is about a half inch out from the blade of the knife. If you want the handle to go part way down into the sheath, draw the lines on up about an inch and a half above where the blade begins. Pictured below: Rawhide with line drawn around blade.

Now take some heavy duty scissors and cut out what will become the back of the sheath. Pictured below: Sheath back cut out.

When you have the back cut out, lay it down on your other piece of rawhide and trace around it to outline what will become the front of the sheath. Don’t make the front come up as high as the back so that you will have a place to attach the neck cord to you finished sheath. Pictured below: Using back of sheath as a pattern to trace out sheath front.

Now cut out the front of the sheath. Pictured below: Front and back of sheath cut out.

Next you are going to make a welt to sew in between the front and back of the sheath. The welt serves to keep the knife blade from cutting through the stitches that hold the sheath together. You can make the welt flush with the outside of the sheath; or you can, as I have here, cut the welt so that it sticks out from the edge of the sheath. If you do this you can come back after the sheath is sewn together and cut the exposed part of the welt into fringe. You want your welt to be about a quarter inch inside of the sheath, so use your pencil to draw a guide line before you cut the welt. Pictured below: Lines draw for welt. The pencil is pointing to the line that will be flush with the sheath. Leather inside of the line will be the welt. Leather outside the line will be fringe.

When the welt is cut out, you can use some glue and glue the welt in between the front and the back of the sheath. Set a couple of books on top of the sheath to keep everything in good contact and let it dry over night. Pictured below: top, Welt cut out; middle, Applying glue to welt; bottom, Front of sheath, welt, and back of sheath glued together.

In the next post we will sew the sheath together, form fit it to the knife, and finish it out.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quick and Easy Rawhide for Urban Dwellers

So you're interested in learning some wilderness survival skills, and you'd like to make a few projects that require some rawhide; but you live in the city, you don't hunt, and you don't have any friends that hunt. How are you going to get any rawhide? Well, you could go on-line and order some, but the easiest way is to go down and buy some at the grocery store. "What," you say. "Are you nuts? What kind of hillbilly place do you live where they sell rawhide at the grocery stores?" Well my friend, they sell it at your grocery store too.

All you have to do is go to the pet food isle and buy yourself a nice doggy chew bone. These bones are made of rolled up beef rawhide. Pictured below: Small chew bone.

To make the rawhide usable for your purposes just soak the bone in a tub of water over night. Pictured below: Chew bone soaking in water.

The next morning it will be soft and pliable. Untie the knots in the ends and unroll the wet rawhide. You won't have a big sheet of hide like if you made your own, and it won't have that nice brown color, but it is big enough to cut into thongs for attaching an axe head or a spear point. Pictured below: top, Chew bone just removed from water; bottom, this chew bone was made of two small pieces of rawhide.

Use small nails to stretch the rawhide out on a board and let it dry for a day or two. I'm going to use these pieces of rawhide to make a neck-knife sheath. Pictured below: Chew bone rawhide stretched out to dry along with the knife that I will be making a sheath for.

I have also seen some pretty nice bullet pouches made out of chew bone rawhide. This type of rawhide is not good for making bowstrings and other small cordage. It is too thick, and it doesn't seem as strong as deer rawhide. But, maybe this will help you get a few smaller projects done until you can make some of your own rawhide.